The Holy Time of Self-Control; Many of You May Have Noticed Your Muslim Friends or Colleagues Have Been Fasting since Ramadan Began Last Month. SARAH JUDD Discovers What This Important Religious Festival Means to Local Muslims

Article excerpt

Byline: SARAH JUDD

THE month of Ramadan is the most important in the Islamic calendar, and is regarded as sacred by Muslims everywhere.

It is even referred to as the holy month, and there are several reasons why.

Firstly, Muslims believe The Qu'ran, the Islamic holy text, was first revealed to the prophet Muhammad during this month.

According to Muslims, in the month of Ramadan, the gates of Heaven are open while the devils are chained up in Hell and the gates closed.

The actual night that the Qu'ran was revealed to Muhammad is called Lailat ul Qadr, and to stand in prayer on this one night is said to be better than a thousand months of worship.

Muslims attempt to recite as much of the Qu'ran as they can during the month, and most mosques will recite one thirtieth of the Qu'ran each night during the Tarawih prayers.

In the evening, mosques are filled with worshippers who go to attend these prayers, which usually last for one and a half to two hours.

No one knows on which particular night the Qur'an was first revealed, but it is said to be one of the last ten nights of Ramadan.

Muslims believe that their good actions bring a greater reward during this month than at any other time of year, because this month has been blessed by Allah.

Almost all Muslims try to give up bad habits during Ramadan.

And although Muslims fast during other times of the year, Ramadan is the only time when fasting, or As-Saum, is obligatory during the entire month during daylight hours for every able Muslim.

Ramadan is intended to increase self-control in all areas, including food, sleeping, abstaining from sex and improving the use of time.

These prayers also give Muslims a chance to meet at the mosque every day, and so they also help to improve relationships in the Muslim community.

Some Muslims practice I'tikaf in the last ten nights of Ramadan.

This means going into seclusion in order to seek Lailat al Qadr or the Night of Power marking the night in which the Qur'an was first revealed to the Prophet Muhammad by Allah.

Some even live in the mosque during this time for serious reflection and worship.

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and as with all months in the Islamic calendar, its start is based on the sighting of the new moon.

There can be confusion and disagreement over the starting date of this month, although this year, the UK dates for Ramadan have been set between September 13 and October 13.

October 13 is also the celebration of Eid Ul Fitr, where Muslims celebrate the end of fasting and thank Allah for His help with their month-long act of self-control.

Since Muslims live all over the world, but Islam started in what is now known as Saudi Arabia, some still hold the belief that the sighting of the new moon from Saudi Arabia marks the beginning of Ramadan.

But although Muslims do often start and end Ramadan on slightly different days, there is little real ill will, and it is forgotten once the fasting starts.

Some Muslims even believe that a new moon sighting from their individual country marks the start of Ramadan. One theory for accepting this is that Islam is regarded as a way of life for all people.

Choosing a local sighting of the moon includes those who do not have access to technology or fast communication, and it is believed by some that unity within a known geographic location is more important than celebrating Ramadan with people who live in another country or continent.

For more information on religious beliefs and festivals visit bbc.co.uk/religion.

What Ramadan means to me

SIXTH form students at Macmillan Academy explain what Ramadan and Eid means to them.

Sumair Masoud (right)

For me, Ramadan is the best time of year to improve myself as an individual; to focus on improving my relationships with God, family and friends. …